Trudell will take break from studio to close MLK Symposium
When John Trudell takes the stage for the closing lecture of the 2004 Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Symposium, it will be him, a microphone and the audience. That's just the way he likes it.
In a multimedia world of video, computers and sound effects, Trudell wants his message to be simple. One of his goals, he says, is to communicate the human experience on a level at which human beings can relate.
"I don't just write what I want people to hear, or what I think they want to hear," Trudell says from his home in Los Angeles. "Every human being is a descendant of an oral tradition. It has to make sense to people in a primal way."
Trudell is a Native American poet, activist, lecturer and musician. He will speak at 6 p.m. today (Jan. 26) in the Michigan Union's Pendleton Room.
"Some people call me a poet," he says. "Others say I'm an activist. Some say my poetry and music is political. Others say it's about the spirit of my people. I don't buy into any of those labels. I may be a little bit of all those things, but I'm more than any of them. We all are. That's what makes us human."
Trudell is returning to campus for the first time since he lectured to open the 1998 MLK Symposium. He will discuss exploring affirmative action in oneself.
"I have tremendous respect for the things Martin Luther King Jr. did," says Trudell, national chairman of the American Indian Movement from 1973-79. "I understand the reality of the issues we are faced with. The issues he fought for are just as valid today as they were then."
The spark for Trudell's poetry and art came in 1979 when his wife, Tina; mother-in-law; and three children were killed in a fire. The fire was deemed an accident, though Trudell calls it suspicious. At the time, he was leading a march on Washington, D.C., to draw attention to the FBI's harassment of Native Americans.
"The lines were my bombs, my explosions, my tears," he says of his poetry.
Today, he spends most of his time in California with his son and granddaughter. While he enjoys lecturing, Trudell also likes performing with his band, Bad Dog.
The unit recently toured in support of Trudell's CD "Bone Days" (2002). He says the band is hard at work on a double CD that he hopes to release this year. One of the CD's titles is "Madness And."
"If this is not madness going on in the world, there is no such thing as madness," he says. "[The CDs are] about the different persons and moods we carry within us."
He continues to focus on speaking and performing. "My objective is to put something out there that people will think about," Trudell says. "That is my release, my therapy."
Trudell says he enjoys the openness of audiences on college campuses. "No matter if I am speaking by myself or with the band, I will address the same consciousness," he says. "I think it is important that we give the energy of us."